Wednesday, April 14, 2010


10 April: RENNELL ISLAND in the Solomon Islands. This island nation gained
its independence in 1978. It is, perhaps, best known for the World War II
battles on Guadalcanal in 1942. The islands have only been open for safe
tourist travel since 2007-09. We felt lucky to be able to visit. Travelers
to Rennell Island are an absolute rarity! Rennell is the most southerly and
geographically isolated island in the archipelago. It is largely flat and
lacks a central mountain range. About 80% of the island is still covered in
tropical forests. At 6:30 am, we landed near Lavanguu Village, on Rennell
Island, a raised coral atoll, for a morning of tropical rainforest birding.
Five bird species are endemic to only this island. I saw all of them:
Rennell White-eye, Bare-eyed White-eye, Rennell Starling and Rennell
Fantail. In addition, we added several species which are endemic to the
Solomon Islands as a whole. These included: Mackinlay's Cuckoo-dove,
Finsch's Pygmy Parrot, Singing Parrot, Island Thrush, Rennell Gerygone and
Cardinal Myzomela. The people of Rennell Island are Polynesians, whereas on
the other islands of the Solomons, the people are Melanesians. At Rennell
Island we took on four local Customs Officials from the Solomon Islands.
They were to remain on board our ship for the duration of our time in this
young island nation. Upon our departure of Rennell, we spotted a kettle of
nearly 350 frigatebirds! Unfortunately, they were too far away to be
identified as to whether or not they were Greater or Lesser Frigatebirds.
Finally, a single Lesser Frigatebird flew over our ship, a lifer for many on
board, if not all.
Debi Shearwater, in the Solomon Islands

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